Henderson County Campus 270-827-7700 Union County Campus: 270-389-5000

About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: COPD

About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an irreversible inflammatory lung condition that affects people who smoke or are exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke. Patients with COPD are at high risk of developing lung cancer and scarring of the lungs. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Are there other causes of COPD?

Long-term exposure to industrial pollutants, dust and chemicals can cause COPD. A genetic condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, accounts for about 5% of cases.

Are COPD and emphysema the same?

Both can happen in smokers. COPD is a form of chronic bronchitis with copious mucus secretions. Emphysema is a form of severe COPD with permanent destruction of lung tissue when air pockets in the lungs lose their elasticity.

Are asthma and COPD similar?

Although symptoms are similar, the underlying problems are different. In asthma, the airway obstruction is reversible; in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it is mostly irreversible.

What are the risk factors?

The most common risk factor is cigarette smoking. There is a normal decline of lung function with age, which happens faster in smokers, leading to COPD. Although smokers develop COPD, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke may also develop this lung condition.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

Common symptoms are recurrent cough with shortness of breath and coughing up thick sputum. Patients often experience weight loss and tire easily. Some may develop pneumonia, a complication that requires hospital admission.

How is COPD diagnosed?

COPD may be diagnosed following a lung function test, chest x-ray, CT scan, arterial blood gas analysis and/or monitoring oxygen saturation.

How is COPD treated?

COPD treatment is based on risk reduction. Medications used for COPD management include steroids and bronchodilators delivered by inhalation or nebulization. Patients may also require supplemental oxygen and BiPAP treatment to support respiration. In very severe cases, patients may need intubation and mechanical ventilation.

How can COPD be prevented?

The main means of prevention include avoiding and stopping tobacco abuse and exposure to secondhand smoke.

About Sugata Sensarma, MD

Certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Sensarma practices at the Multi-Specialty Clinic at Methodist Health, 1305 North Elm Street, Henderson, KY.